Your Rights as a Passenger in a Car Accident

your rights as a passenger in a car accident robert armstrong wilmington north carolina

Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, at-fault or not-at-fault, car accidents are never fun. There is good news, however, for the passengers in a vehicle that has crashed.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident as a passenger, your case is typically less complicated than a driver or other personal injury case. Why, you ask? Because as a passenger, you don’t bear any responsibility for how the wreck occurred. That’s for the drivers and their lawyers and insurance companies to figure out.

Often, as an injured passenger, you have more rights than the injured driver.

How do you file a passenger injury claim?

First things first. If you were injured in a car accident as a passenger, you need to make sure you get insurance information for all the drivers involved before you leave the scene, if possible.

Second, you need to document everything that happened, from the moments leading up to the crash to the aftermath of the accident. Take pictures and detailed notes.

Then, you need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case.

It’s important to remember the following if you’re a passenger:

  • It’s possible that you will be able to recover the full amount of damages, even in a comparative negligence state that determines damage awards based on a percentage of fault with all parties involved.
  • You will likely be able to potentially file claims against the insurance policies of all drivers, thus havins two liability policies come in to cover the event.

What if the insurance policies don’t cover all of your expenses?

In some cases, your injuries might exceed the coverage of the insurance companies you’re filing claims against. This happens when people keep the minimum insurance requirements, or sometimes it can happen when there are multiple people who are injured in a crash. When either of these things happen, you have the following options:

  • You can try to tap into uninsured/underinsured motorist policies for the host driver involved.
  • You can file a claim against your own insurance policy for the amount that is not covered by the drivers’ insurance policies.

As you can see, accidents involving passengers are very complicated matters, but you have many rights and avenues you can pursue in getting the amount of money you deserve.

If you or someone you love was an injured passenger in a car accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today for help.

 

 

 

 

June National Safety Month

national safety month Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

June is National Safety Month, according to the National Safety Council, which makes it a perfect time to talk about road safety topics that often lead to personal injury cases for lawyers.

What are the dangers of impaired driving?

Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is not only illegal, it’s extremely dangerous. If you are in an accident and it is discovered that you are impaired, the consequences can be very serious.

Here are some statistics about drunk driving:

  • Someone who has a blood alcohol concentration, also known as BAC, of .10 or higher is seven times more likely to cause a fatal car crash than a driver who is sober. That number increases to 25 times more likely if the driver has a BAC of .15 or more.
  • If you drink two beers and weigh about 160 pounds, your BAC will be somewhere around .04. That’s lower than the legal limit for drinking and driving, but you are still 1.4 times more likely to cause an accident than someone who had zero beers.
  • Studies have shown that people begin to lose their ability to see moving objects properly with as little as a .02 BAC.
  • If you are arrested and convicted on a drunk driving charge, you can expect to pay anywhere between $9,000 and $24,000 before it’s all said and done, and that doesn’t include damages to people you have injured in a crash.

How can you avoid distracted driving?

As smartphones continue to rise in popularity, so do the number of accidents that are caused by distracted driving. Here are some tips to help you stay focused when you’re behind the wheel:

  • Limit cell phone use to ONLY emergency situations: The only time you should pick up your cell phone while you’re driving is if it’s an emergency. Otherwise, keep it out of sight and out of mind until you get to where you’re going.
  • Don’t drive when you’re tired: Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and there’s no reason for you to push forward when your eyes start to droop. Pull over and rest until you’re fresh enough to hit the highway and stay alert.
  • Try not to fill your car with passengers and loud music: Having a car full of people can distract you from the obstacles at hand while driving. Try to limit the number of people in your car. And turn the blaring music down!

Tips for avoiding car accidents

We all know that accidents can happen. That is, after all, why they are called accidents.

But there are some things you can do while driving to avoid them. Here are some tips:

  • Try to stay away from the “fast lane” – Often, if you are driving in the far left lane and something happens, you have fewer options for avoiding the obstacle or swerving into another lane to miss being hit.
  • Be aware of blind spots  – You can’t put all of your faith into rear and sideview mirrors. Always turn and look into the lane you are trying to enter.
  • Maintain your vehicle – Bad tires, old belts and other car ailments can equal disasters on the road if they’re not taken care of. Don’t let yourself become a statistic because you waited too long to buy new tires or take care of other problems with your vehicle.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today for help.

Why Medical Care is Necessary After a Car Accident

Why Medical Care is Necessary After a Car Accident Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Oftentimes, when you are in an automobile accident, your adrenaline starts flowing immediately after the crash. When that happens, it’s hard to determine whether you have injuries, because the symptoms of serious injuries are not visible at the time of the accident.

That’s why it is so important to see a doctor as soon as possible after an accident.

There are two main reasons for needing to seek medical attention immediately:

  • The longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to prove definitively that your injuries were caused by the vehicle accident.
  • If you don’t seek medical attention immediately, you are putting your health and wellness at risk.

What are the symptoms of serious injury after a crash?

Although injuries are not always immediately felt after an accident, there are some symptoms that can occur right after a crash — or several days or weeks later. Here are a few signs that you might be seriously hurt:

  • Severe pain
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Dizziness

What should you do before you see the doctor?

Here are some things you should do while you’re in the waiting room of the hospital or doctor’s office, if you’re able to:

  • Take pictures of scratches, cuts, gashes, bruises or other wounds that are visible.
  • Write down the pain and symptoms you’re feeling and write down your best account of what happened and what caused the accident.

What should you do after you see your doctor?

After you see your doctor, it’s imperative that you do the following things:

  • Properly document the medical expenses you incur.
  • Continue to document those expenses if there are more doctor’s visits to come.
  • Ask your doctor for copies of your medical records.
  • Seek an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your case.

Reviewing your medical records

When you obtain copies of your medical records, you should review them thoroughly and make sure the following things are completely accurate:

  • Your doctor’s description of the car accident. Make sure all of the details are factually correct.
  • Your doctor’s listing of your symptoms. Did he include them all? Did he explain them well?
  • Your medical history.

Why are these things so important? Insurance companies and defense attorneys will comb through these details over and over, looking for any inconsistencies that they can use to attack your credibility and not pay you the award to which you are entitled.

If you find any errors while you are reviewing your records, make sure your doctor corrects them and gives you new copies of the corrected records.

Car accidents are a huge pain in more ways than one. That’s why it’s so crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to counsel you and ensure you get the monetary compensation you deserve.

If you or someone you love has been in a car accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.

 

 

What to do if you’re hit by an Uber or Lyft driver

hit by uber or lyft driver Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

What happens if you get into a car accident for someone who is driving for Uber, Lyft, or a similar car service? Who can you make a claim against? Will any insurance coverage come into play?

Uber and Lyft are relatively new car services that compete with taxis and other car services in several major cities. Uber and Lyft are similar to many taxi services in that they do not own, operate, or control their cars, and do not hire their drivers. Rather, their drivers contract with them to pick up passengers on behalf of the companies. The major differences between Uber and Lyft, on the one hand, and taxis and traditional car services, on the other hand, is their pricing structure and how customers get an Uber or Lyft driver.

Unlike taxis, customers cannot hail an Uber or Lyft driver on the street. Rather, customers download the Uber or Lyft app to their smartphone and arrange for a driver through the app. Pricing for a ride can vary. Some rides can be cheaper than a standard taxi, and other rides can be more expensive than a standard taxi. One unusual aspect to Lyft’s operation is that passengers do not technically pay for their ride. Instead, the drivers are supposed to receive “donations” from their passengers.

Who is Liable If You are Hit by an Uber or Lyft Driver?

As in any car accident case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to win the case: liability (who was at fault for the accident) and damages (how badly the plaintiff was injured). If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be able to prove that someone was negligent in order to have a claim.

The primary defendant will of course be the Uber or Lyft driver. Your most straightforward legal case will be against that person, and it would proceed just like any car accident claim. You would find out who the driver’s insurer is, and then make a claim with the insurer. 

The other potential defendant, if you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, would be Uber or Lyft themselves. However, one problem in suing these companies is that they are so new that their legal liability for their drivers’ actions is still being sorted out in the courts.

Another problem is that Uber and Lyft expressly disclaim any liability for their drivers’ behavior, contending that their drivers are independent contractors, and that the companies do not control the drivers in any way.

That may well be true, but one potential claim against Uber and Lyft is their selection process for their drivers. To the extent that their selection and vetting process of potential drivers is at all inadequate, a person hit by an Uber or Lyft driver may be able to maintain a claim against the company for negligently permitting a driver to operate a car on its behalf.

Is There Insurance to Cover My Claim?

Insurance coverage is another potential problem in a claim against an Uber or Lyft driver. Although Uber and Lyft require their drivers to have car insurance (which is not necessarily meaningful because almost every state requires drivers to have car insurance) and the companies themselves provide some additional coverage for their drivers, there still may be some significant gaps in the drivers’ coverage.

This is because not all private car insurance provides coverage for accidents that occurred while the car was being operated for hire. So, an Uber or Lyft driver’s car insurer may disclaim coverage for any accidents that occurred while the driver was on call.

Again, Uber and Lyft are so new that the legal aspects of their service are still being worked out in the courts. If you are hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you should certainly contact a lawyer in your state as soon as possible for sound advice on the driver’s potential liability under your state’s laws.

Learn more about car accidents and car insurance coverage.

What to Do After the Accident — Gathering Evidence

The first thing that you should do after any car accident is get the names and contact information of all of the witnesses to the accident. The second thing that you should do is take pictures immediately. If you have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved in the accident as you can, from as many angles as you can, before you leave the scene. If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, ask if anyone else has a camera and is willing to email you the pictures. Otherwise, have a friend or relative take pictures as soon as possible.

You should also call the police from the accident scene. Many states have a law requiring the police to be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or more than minor property damage, but, in an accident with a taxicab or Uber/Lyft driver, you will generally want the accident to be officially recorded as soon as possible. Insist that all drivers stay around until the police arrive.

 

Understanding Settlement and Release Agreements

settlement agreements Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

You’ve finally come to the end of the long and drawn out litigation process, and it’s time to settle your claim once and for all.

The way that most cases are ended is not with a jury or a judge, but with a settlement agreement.

Although it sounds simple, it’s usually not. A settlement agreement is a critical and powerful piece of your case.

When should you use a settlement and release agreement?

You should pull out a settlement and release agreement when:

  • The defendant wants to settle outside of the courtroom.
  • The plaintiff in a lawsuit wants to state the terms in which he or she would settle out of court and end the lawsuit.

What should be included in a settlement and release agreement?

Settlement and release agreements should typically include the following:

  • The names and addresses of the parties involved – both the plaintiff and the defendant
  • A brief summary of the dispute and the nature of the claim
  • A statement describing in detail what the plaintiff is getting in exchange for ending the lawsuit or claim. A release is typically only valid if the plaintiff or person filing the claim is receiving something in return for ending the dispute or giving up the right to file a lawsuit. Usually, the “something” is money, and if so, you should state the amount of money. If it is not money, state what it is.
  • A sentence explaining that the release will end all current and any future litigation that could arise from this claim. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  • A clause that binds all people who might want to file a claim (like the plaintiff’s spouse or daughter) to the settlement, thus giving up their rights to file a lawsuit as well.
  • The date when the release is signed by both parties.
  • The signatures of all parties involved. This would seem obvious, but it’s important. Technically, only the person who’s releasing the lawsuit needs to sign it, but it’s a better move for all parties involved to sign the document.  
  • Have witnesses present when the agreement is signed. That’s not mandatory, but if you believe the person could come back and later say that he or she never signed the document, then it’s a smart idea to bring a witness or two with you when you are signing the document.

Depending on the nature of your claim, a judge or another officer of the court might have to sign off on the settlement agreement.

This is why it’s so important to hire an experienced attorney to handle your case from start to finish. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

 

5 tips for choosing the best personal injury lawyer

tips for choosing a personal injury lawyer Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Perhaps the most important task you have after an accident with injury is choosing the personal injury lawyer in North Carolina who is right for you. After all, so much depends on it.

Here are some tips for selecting the best personal injury attorney:

  • Experience – It may seem obvious, but it’s crucial that you choose an attorney who has ample experience in investigating and analyzing all aspects of your claim. He or she will know exactly what to look for, where to find it, and knows that the minute details can make or break your case. Robert Armstrong has 32 years of experience in personal injury cases.
  • Area of focus – Some personal injury lawyers may specialize in big rig accidents, while others may focus on motorcycle or other types of motor vehicle accidents. It’s important that you pick an attorney who’s well-versed in the type of accident for which you have a claim. It’s said that about 95 percent of personal injury claims are settled without a judge or jury, so it’s key that your lawyer understands the many factors at play. A family mortgage attorney or a corporate litigator won’t cut it for these types of cases. Robert Armstrong has handled only personal injury cases for his entire 32-year career.
  • Reputation – Is your attorney well-known, or is your lawyer infamous? Your attorney’s reputation will factor heavily into dealing with insurance companies, other lawyers, judges and court officials. Someone who has been kicked out of courtrooms for bad behavior or doesn’t play nice with others probably isn’t the best lawyer to handle your case. You need someone who is well-respected with a track record of getting fair settlements for his or her clients.
  • Disciplinary record – How many complaints does your potential lawyer have against him or her? Has he or she ever been disciplined for actions or behavior while practicing? Has your attorney ever been suspended? Disbarred? You can typically find all of this information online in a searchable database.
  • Personality – He or she might be the best lawyer out there, but if you and your attorney don’t mesh well or can’t get along, then you might want to find someone else. Also, you need an attorney who is willing to return your phone calls and answer specific questions about your case. You don’t need to be best friends with your attorney, but you do need to have a good working relationship.

Hiring a personal injury attorney is a key step in recovering all the money you deserve after an experience as traumatic as an accident. Be sure to follow these steps in selecting the right attorney for you. If you or someone you love has been in an accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

,

Essential Motorcycle Insurance Coverage to Purchase In North Carolina

Essential Motorcycle Insurance Coverage to Purchase In North Carolina Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you own a motorcycle in North Carolina, you must have it insured, according to state law.

The minimum coverage you can have on your motorcycle in North Carolina is liability.

What are the mandatory motorcycle insurance coverage requirements in North Carolina?

Here are the mandatory insurance requirements for motorcycles in North Carolina:

  • $30,000 for bodily injuries or death to one person in a single accident.
  • $60,000 for bodily injuries or deaths to more than one person in a single accident.
  • $25,000 for property damage occurring in a single accident.

When you’re shopping for motorcycle insurance, remember that these requirements are the minimum coverage by law. You can add more coverage if you believe you need it.

What are the optional coverage options for motorcycles?

Aside from liability insurance, most insurance companies that write motorcycle policies will offer other types of optional coverage that will give you added protections for damages and injuries you might incur if you are ever in a motorcycle accident. These include:

  • Collision – This will cover damage to your motorcycle if you are in an accident and it is your fault. For damages to your motorcycle after and accident.
  • Comprehensive – This is for any damages to your motorcycle that could happen that are not related to an accident.
  • Medical payments – If you are ever in a motorcycle accident and it is your fault, this type of coverage will help to pay your medical bills if you’re injured. Please note that Medical payments is not an option in North Carolina for motorcycles.
  • Towing and labor – If your motorcycle breaks down on the side of the highway, this type of coverage will make sure you get roadside assistance.
  • UM/UIM – Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage to protect you in the event that the other vehicle that caused the wreck either has NO insurance (UM) or is Underinsured (UIM). In that case you can make a claim on your own policy to get the compensation that you deserve. This is perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT COVERAGE that a rider can buy. It will protect you!

Even though the state keeps track of whether you have insurance through insurance companies that notify the DMV if there’s a lapse in coverage, you are still required by law to show proof of insurance if asked by law enforcement. All you have to do is keep your current insurance card on you at all times.

What are the penalties if you fail to maintain proper insurance for your motorcycle?

Now that you know what kind of insurance coverage you need, what can happen to  you if you fail to keep proper insurance on your motorcycle?

Well, that depends:

  • First, your insurance company will let the DMV know that you don’t have current insurance.
  • Once that happens, a Form FS 6-7 notice will be sent to you.
  • If you did, in fact, have a lapse in your insurance coverage, you must show proof of your current coverage, pay the fine implemented by the DMV and mail it back to the department within a certain number of days of the date listed on the form.
  • If you fail to do the above, your license plates will likely be suspended for a month.
  • If that happens, you’ll have to wait the 30 days, then go to the DMV and clear things up, while likely paying a heftier fine.

If you or someone you love has been in a motorcycle accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

What is Contributory Negligence?

What is Contributory Negligence Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you are involved in a vehicle or other type of accident, the term contributory negligence might come up.

Contributory negligence is how the legal community describes the actions of an injured person who may have played a part in causing his or her own injury.

For example: if you are hit by a car while riding your bicycle, but you were riding on the wrong side of the road, then you could share in the blame for the accident, and your compensation could be affected.

Another example would be if you are dining in a restaurant and have a severe peanut allergy, but fail to notify the restaurant. If you eat something with peanuts and have an allergic reaction, it may be partially your fault for failing to tell the employees.

How does North Carolina’s contributory negligence law work?

North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still abide by contributory negligence instead of comparative negligence, which is when the degree of fault is measured for each party, and then your compensation is based on that analysis.

In North Carolina, that’s not the case:

  • Even if you are only partially at fault in North Carolina, you cannot recover any compensation in your claim.
  • North Carolina does not have a comparative negligence law in place.
  • However, North Carolina does have legal doctrines which can overcome contributory negligence: If the defendant had the “last clear chance” to avoid the occurrence and injury, you may still recover; If the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, you may still recover; or if you were faced with a “sudden emergency” you may still recover. All of the above exceptions are factors to consider.

Only Alabama, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., join North Carolina in the list of places that go by the contributory negligence law.

How is contributory negligence evaluated?

Contributory negligence is calculated by something called the “standard of care” provision:

  • Standard of care applies to what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
  • To be considered contributory negligent, you must have done something that was negligent and caused the specific injury or damage that is at the center of the claim.
  • Just because you may have been negligent, it still must have caused or contributed to your injury in order to bar recovery.

What are the components of negligence?

Although laws vary from state to state, negligence, in general, is pretty standard across state lines. The following are considered elements of a negligence case:

  • The defendant had a responsibility to do a particular thing or refrain from doing said particular thing.
  • The defendant failed in that responsibility.
  • The defendant’s breach in responsibility caused injury to a person or damage to a thing.
  • The defendant’s actions or inactions were the reason why the plaintiff was injured or the property was damaged.  
  • The victim suffered actual damages that can be calculated, like lost wages from work, medical bills, etc.

If you or someone you love was in an accident, it’s important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to work through the complexities of your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

Why you should have uninsured motorist coverage

uninsured motorists coverage Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Did you know that an estimated one out of every eight drivers on the road are driving without car insurance? In some states, the number is much higher – as many as one out of every four drivers going uninsured.

With those scary statistics, it’s smart – and required in some states – to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy.

Even if you weren’t required to have it, if you don’t carry it then you put yourself at risk for footing the bill if an uninsured or underinsured motorist hits you. And as we all know, with car damage, physical injuries, lost wages and so many other factors in play, you don’t want to be stuck with the bill.

Which states have the highest number of uninsured motorists?

In 2012, some 29.7 million people drove around the country without car insurance. THe following states had the highest rates of uninsured motorists:

  • Florida: 23.8 percent
  • Mississippi: 22.9 percent
  • New Mexico: 21.6 percent
  • Michigan: 21.0 percent
  • Tennessee: 20.1 percent
  • Alabama: 19.6 percent
  • Rhode Island: 17.0 percent
  • Colorado: 16.2 percent
  • Washington: 16.1 percent
  • Texas: 13.5 percent
  • Oklahoma: 25.9 percent

What kind of insurance requirements exist in North Carolina?

Aside from uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, North Carolina drivers are also required to have the following minimum liability coverage, which will be paid by your insurance company if you are involved in an accident and it’s your fault:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability, per person per accident.
  • $60,000 of bodily injury liability total per accident.

What other insurance options are there in North Carolina?

Aside from the required liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance requirements in North Carolina, most insurance companies offer the following optional coverage as well (note: if you have a car financed or you’re leasing your car, your financial institution will require you to have collision and comprehensive coverage on your vehicle):

  • Collision – If you are in a crash and it’s your fault, this coverage means your insurance company will pay for the repairs. That only covers collisions with other moving vehicles.
  • Comprehensive – This will help if you hit a tree, or if someone throws a rock through your window, or other similar types of incidents.
  • Towing and labor
  • Rental car

If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident, it’s important that you contact an experienced attorney to help with the complexities of insurance and other aspects of your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office for help.

 

The process of a personal injury claim

personal injury claim process Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina (2)

If you’ve been in a car accident, there’s a long road ahead to settling the claim and getting what you are owed. It’s a complicated process, which is why one of the first things you should always do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

What happens when you meet with a personal injury attorney?

Here are a few things you can expect when you have your first encounter with an injury lawyer:

  • You might be asked to sign a form releasing your medical information so that your lawyer can access them. They’re important documents for building your case.  
  • You will probably be asked all about your insurance coverage, with lots of specifics on premiums and what kind of coverage you have.
  • Your lawyer will want to know what, if anything, you have said to insurance adjusters, and if you have given any recorded interviews or written statements.

What happens after you hire a lawyer?

Once you hire a lawyer, he or she will begin the process of filing a claim with the insurance company, or filing a suit in court.

Here are a few things to note about this stage:

  • This phase of the settlement is called discovery, and it’s the time when every little detail about your case will come to light. Keep in mind that it is very likely that anything and everything will come out at some point in the discovery process.
  • You’ve got to be totally and completely honest with your attorney. If you’re not, then it could impact the outcome of your case. There’s nothing worse than losing a case or losing out on money you’re owed because you lied.

What happens during the settlement phase?

The good news is that most personal injury claims don’t ever reach a courtroom. They are usually settled before it goes to court.

Here are some things to talk to your attorney about when it comes to the settlement phase:

  • How have settlement amounts and jury verdicts been for other cases that were similar to yours?
  • What are your chances of winning if you do go to trial?
  • Are there any special circumstances that make it harder to try your case in court?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your case? How does the evidence hold up to your claims?
  • What are the strength and weaknesses of your opponent’s case?
  • What does your attorney think your claim is worth – talk specifics, including exact dollar amounts and how that amount compares to the amount you could receive if you went to trial.
  • What is the minimum amount of money you are willing to accept in an effort to avoid going to court?
  • What are the specifics of your opponent’s insurance policy? Are you seeking more than the insurance policy is able to pay out?
  • What about your opponent’s own personal financial resources? Is he or she able to compensate you out of pocket?

 

If there’s anything you learned from reading this, it’s that personal injury cases are very complex legal matters, and they should always be handled by an experienced injury lawyer. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.