Car accidents are a scary and confusing experience. They can get complicated when insurance companies disagree about who is at fault, and even further complicated when passengers are injured. North Carolina car accident laws differ from a majority of states across the country and it may be difficult to navigate all the nuances of these complex laws.

However, by taking steps to prove fault and by consulting an experienced attorney early in the process, a passenger can ensure they are fully compensated for their injuries. This article helps explore some of the nuances of North Carolina law, and provides some steps you can take to help your case.

Determining Fault

When involved in a car accident, one thing is certain: insurance companies will be involved. Because insurance companies are very reluctant to pay out in these situations, it’s important to ensure that the injured parties can accurately determine fault and take necessary steps to begin making your case to prove fault. This is especially true in a state such as North Carolina (see “Contributory Negligence” below).

As a passenger injured in a car accident, you’ll want to use visual evidence to help your case. Take photos of the cars, look to videos from nearby stores or restaurants, or look to see if any red light cameras are nearby. Also, witness testimony can be critical to your claim. An attorney can help you encourage people to speak on your behalf, and ensure that their story supports your case.

Contributory Negligence

When you’re involved in a car accident in most states across the country, the driver that is at-fault will pay for the damage caused to both people and property. However, this is not the case in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State uses a system called “contributory negligence” to determine fault in a car accident.

Under contributory negligence, if a passenger is found to be partially at fault, such as grabbing the steering wheel or distracting the driver, they will not recover any compensation. For example, if the driver is speeding at 5 miles per hour over the speed limit and smashes into another car because you told the driver to look at your phone, you could potentially be barred from recovering from the driver. Although this is often viewed as unfair, situations like these occur frequently because of the strict car accident laws in North Carolina.

Statute of Limitations

In addition to contributory negligence laws in North Carolina, passengers injured in a car accident should also be aware of the statute of limitations laws in the state. Under the general statutes of North Carolina, a civil lawsuit for injuries or property damage must be filed within three years. This means when anyone is hurt in the accident—whether the driver, pedestrian or passenger—or their vehicle was damaged, their lawsuit must be filed against any potential defendant within three years. This Statute of limitations period is different for death of a passenger or for a person underage or under a disability. So it is important to consult a personal injury attorney immediately after a wreck.

Although this may seem like a long time, when dealing with insurance companies and looking at all evidence to prove your claim—not to mention any time spent in the hospital or recovering from injury—the time can go by quickly. It’s always a good idea to begin the process as soon as possible. Talk to an experienced lawyer right after the accident to ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines.

Being involved in any automotive accident can be a frightening experience. As a passenger, this experience can be even more cumbersome. However, by engaging a qualified and experienced car accident lawyer, you can guarantee that your rights will be extended and that you are fully compensated for your injuries.  

North Carolina is an at-fault insurance state, meaning that the at-fault driver is responsible for the damages that result because of a car accident. His or her insurance company usually pays for these damages. To make the other party pay, you will have to provide evidence that he or she was at fault.

Contributory Negligence

It is important to understand that North Carolina uses a strict contributory negligence scheme. In most states if a driver is partially at fault, he or she can still recover for the damages he or she sustained. His or her degree of fault reduces the damages award. For example, if the driver is 40 percent at fault and sustained damages of $100,000, he or she can still recover an award for $60,000. In North Carolina, if a driver is in any way at fault – even just 1 percent – he or she cannot recover any damages. This means that you must prove the other driver was 100% at fault for the accident.

A Wilmington NC personal injury lawyer can help you gather evidence to prove the other driver’s negligence caused the accident.

Evidence to Establish Your Claim

You will need to prove the following four elements of your claim: 1) duty; 2) breach of duty; 3) causation; and 4) damages. The following types of evidence can help you establish these elements:

  • Police report – After an accident, it is important that you contact the authorities and make an accident report. A law enforcement officer will arrive at the scene, conduct a preliminary investigation and may give a citation to the party who violated traffic laws.
  • Medical records – Medical records can show that you were physically injured in the accident. Collect emergency or hospital admission records, X-rays and other imaging scans, prescriptions, doctors’ notes, clinical summaries and other medical records.
  • Photos – Photos can help establish how the accident happened. Take pictures of the accident scene, including skid marks on the roadway, damage to your vehicle, damage to the other vehicle and the location of the accident. You can also use photos to establish some of your damages, such as your injuries and the damage to your property.
  • Employment records – If the accident caused you to miss work, employment records can show how much income and benefits you lost. Collect check stubs, tax returns and other payroll information. You might also want to ask your employer to write a note that indicates how many days you missed from work because of the accident.
  • Witness testimony – Objective witnesses can explain what they saw. This can help establish that the driver ran a red light, was weaving around traffic or speeding. If possible, try to get contact information for any witnesses immediately after your accident. Your Wilmington NC personal injury lawyer can contact these witnesses and determine if they may be able to help your case.
  • Video footage – Surveillance from local businesses or traffic cams may also show how the accident happened.
  • Statutory references – Because you will have to prove that the other driver was negligent, you will have to pinpoint exactly what he or she did wrong. You can then compare that act with North Carolina laws. For example, the driver could have been impaired or distracted. He or she may have sped, failed to yield, ran a red light or followed too closely.
  • Personal testimony – You may also be expected to testify about how the accident was caused and the extent of your damages. You are the best person to explain the pain and suffering you suffered as a result of the accident.

Robert Armstrong can help you gather this information to help prove your claim and seek maximum compensation against an at-fault party.

Whiplash is a very common injury after a car accident. The word itself is an indicator of how whiplash happens. It occurs when your back, neck and head are “whipped” around in a violent fashion.

In these areas of your body, your nerves, tendons and ligaments can be thrown around outside of their usual range of motion, which can lead to soft tissue damage.

You won’t see soft tissue damage on an X-ray or an MRI, but you will surely feel the effects of such an injury.

What are some of the symptoms of whiplash?

Here are some of the symptoms of whiplash:

  • Back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
  • Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression


How can you prove that you have suffered from whiplash after a car accident?

Here are four ways you can prove whiplash in a car accident claim:

  • Testimony from your doctor: There’s no better evidence to back your claim than a medical expert speaking on your behalf. A deposition or court testimony from your doctor will allow him or her to explain how you were diagnosed with whiplash, what symptoms led to the diagnosis, and what treatment options he or she provided for you.
  • List of medications you were prescribed: Often, your pain levels from whiplash will be so severe that they will require medication for your muscles, nerves and to ease the pain. Muscle relaxers, painkillers and other prescriptions could also serve as evidence for your case. It’s a good idea to offer the prescription history to help your case.
  • Testimony from friends and family: If you have friends or family who have helped you post-accident and have seen firsthand the amount of pain and suffering you have had to ensure, their testimony could be very helpful in your claim. They can tell the judge, jury or lawyers just how badly the crash and subsequent whiplash and other potential injuries have impacted your life.
  • Police report: Traffic cops are able to estimate speeds you were traveling and other factors, all of which could be important in proving that conditions were favorable for you to suffer from whiplash.


The first thing you need to do if you’ve been injured in a car accident is contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.


There’s an old saying that rules are meant to be broken, but it’s not only untrue — it’s dangerous, especially when it comes to rules of the road.

Failing to obey traffic laws can land you in big trouble, either in the form of a ticket, a serious accident, or both.

Here are some of the commonly ignored rules of the road that you should start following — immediately:

  1. Failing to use your turn signal — There’s a reason you have a turn signal, and it’s not for decoration or effect. It’s to let other drivers know your next move, which is often crucial information for other drivers as they, too, try to decide what their next move or direction will be, often in a split-second. Failure to use a turn signal can result in a ticket — it’s the law in most places — and it can also cause another driver to run into you and cause an accident with injuries.
  2. Running yellow and red lights — All drivers are required to stop at a yellow light, unless it’s unsafe to do so. You shouldn’t speed up to try to make it through the yellow light before it turns red. That’s unsafe — and most of the time illegal. You also can’t just ignore red lights. You must stop. This law doesn’t apply to every driver EXCEPT for you. It applies to everyone.
  3. Following too closely — Safety professionals suggest that you abide by a “two-second” rule when following any vehicle. This means you keep far back enough that it would take you two seconds to catch up to the vehicle in front of you if it stops suddenly. Keep in mind that the rules can differ from state to state. Following another vehicle too closely puts both you and the driver in front of you in danger. If a dog or other road obstruction pops up out of nowhere and you are too close to the vehicle in front of you, you could both end up out of luck and injured in an accident. Conversely, if someone is following your vehicle too closely, don’t be tempted to “teach them a lesson” by slamming on your brakes. That’s just as dangerous as following too close, and it can cause just as serious of an accident.
  4. Staying out of the left lane except for passing — The far left lane of most highways are to be used only for passing slow-moving vehicles. It’s something that countless drivers forget — or choose to ignore — and it’s no fun for vehicles behind you. Not only is it rude, it’s also dangerous, as it obstructs the flow of traffic.
  5. Texting and driving — It’s illegal in 47 states, and it’s among the most careless distracted driving infractions you can make. It only takes a couple of seconds with your eyes off the road and on your phone to cause a serious — and potentially deadly — crash. Just don’t do it.


Sometimes, accidents are unavoidable and not your fault, but these are rules you should follow to decrease your chances of a crash.

If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident, contact Robert Armstrong today.

You were in an accident in Wilmington, NC where you sustained injuries. You’ve been dealing with the pain of your injuries and coordinating your doctor’s appointments against work and life obligations. Now insurance companies are telling you they aren’t going to cover all of your medical expenses because of minimum state limits. Why is this happening and what do you do?


North Carolina’s Minimum Car Insurance Requirements

Every state has its own laws regarding what kind of insurance coverage a driver must have to be compliant with the law. If you are living and driving in North Carolina, it is important to be familiar with what these requirements are – whether you are buying you or your teenager’s first insurance policy, shopping around for a new insurance company for better rates, or have just been in an accident.


North Carolina Car Insurance Requirements & Personal Injury Coverage:

Every North Carolina driver is required by state law to have liability insurance. Liability Insurance protects you in accidents where you are at fault by covering costs for injuries and damages. The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) details that every insurance policy’s liability insurance must have at the minimum the following coverage:

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

Now, these are the bare minimum requirements and it is always important to consider whether you might want to pay a little bit more to increase your coverage. Paying a bit more to increase these limits can allow you to access policies that have a combination of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverages.


What is Uninsured or UnderInsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage

In North Carolina all drivers must have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. If you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist who was at fault and you have a North Carolina insurance policy, your UM coverage can help cover medical bills and property damage.


Uninsured Motorist (UM) / Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage

If you are paying a little extra to have higher limits and better coverage, your insurance company’s policies at these higher rates are required to provide combined Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorists (UIM) coverages. Having Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage can make a world of difference.

Here’s how:

If you are in an accident with an at-fault underinsured driver whose policy coverage isn’t actually going to cover all of your own medical bills, your combined UM/UIM coverage may be able to help you cover the remaining costs. For a small amount of extra money per year, it can make a huge difference in your protection.


Check out the North Carolina Department of Insurance Consumer Guide for further review of state requirements and limits.


What is the very best way to try to get my medical bills taken care of after an accident?

If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident and it wasn’t your fault, the most important thing you can do for yourself or your loved one is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to help handle your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help. We have extensive experience untangling insurance policies, maximizing benefits, and advocating for our clients’ physical, emotional, and financial needs. We want to meet you and we want to help.

You were just in an accident. You are still at the scene and your head is spinning with all of the instructions you have ever been told about what to do next. Luckily, you pay diligently for your car insurance. Plus, some other insurance company has a really caring advertising campaign about how “you are in good hands”, or something similar.

We see it time and time again at Robert Armstrong Law. Unfortunately, all insurance companies tend to have the same priorities after a car accident: protecting their own interests. Robert Armstrong wants you to know what actions to take to keep yourself safe, your rights intact, and to protect you from insurance companies taking advantage.

Start Protecting Yourself Immediately After a Car Accident

  1. Stay at the Scene and check on all drivers and passengers for safety.

Leaving the scene and/or failing to check on the other people involved can open you up to perhaps baseless allegations from insurance companies and lawyers. You could be accused of a hit-and-run.

     2. Exchange information with the other driver and DO NOT APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT.

Obtain information: names, numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, make/model of vehicles, and basic insurance information. If you do not have any information about the other vehicle or driver, ask the law enforcement officer for the other drivers information.  If there are witnesses, request to obtain their name and numbers as well as witnesses can make a big difference in your case.

Never apologize or admit to wrongdoing. It is tempting to apologize for everyone’s stress and worry and/or to reflect on what you could have done to prevent this. Apologizing can make you vulnerable to insurance companies claiming that you have admitted fault.

      3. Call Medical Professionals and Police As Needed

If anyone is in need of medical attention call 911 immediately. If anyone is injured and/or there is significant property damage that you even think might lead to an insurance claim, call the police to have them file a police report. Ask for their name and badge information. Insurance companies have a more difficult time wiggling out of their responsibilities when a police report is telling them what happened.

      4. Take Pictures

Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and if possible the other vehicle as soon as possible. Ideally, your photos will have a time stamp and will be from the actual scene. If the cars need to be moved to protect against further accidents, that should be the priority, but only move after you have been instructed to do so by the law enforcement officer. If possible try to get pictures from the accident itself. At minimum, try to provide pictures either from the scene and/or of the damages to your vehicle after to your insurance company as soon as possible so that no one can cast doubt on whether the damage to your vehicle was really from the accident.

What next? Insurance Companies are about to get a lot more involved in your case. It is about to be more important than ever that you continue to protect your rights throughout the claims process.

What is the very best way to protect yourself after an accident from insurance companies?

If you or someone you love was injured in a car accident and it wasn’t your fault, the most important thing you can do for yourself or your loved one is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

If you’ve ever been involved in a car accident with injury, you know there are facts and evidence you have to present to prove your case. This is called the burden of proof — proving to the insurance company, or the judge or jury, that all the allegations you are bringing forth actually happened.

Although car accident injury cases are complicated, fortunately, the burden of proof is lower in civil cases — i.e. car accident claims — than it is for criminal cases, because the civil burden is based on “a preponderance of the evidence” or “more likely than not” that the defendant is liable.

What elements do you have to prove in a car accident injury case?

In order to prevail in your car accident claim, you have to prove that the defendant was negligent. This is done by proving the following four elements of negligence:

  • The defendant had a “duty of care” to the car accident victim.
  • The defendant breached said “duty of care.”
  • The injury was caused by the defendant’s negligent actions.
  • The person filing the claim was injured.

What is duty of care?

Duty of care is a broad term that means someone had an obligation to be cautious and show reasonable care for the plaintiff’s safety.

One obvious example of duty of care is that you are required by law to drive cautiously and safely on the road. If you didn’t do that, you breached your duty of care.

Other ways the duty of care can be breached include:

  • Driving drunk
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Following too closely
  • Texting and driving

If any of those offenses are listed in the accident report, then it’s much easier to establish that the defendant breached his or her duty of care.

Next, the plaintiff — or likely the plaintiff’s experienced personal injury attorney — must prove that the duty of care breach — the defendant’s actions and subsequent vehicle accident — caused injury to the plaintiff.

In other words, the plaintiff has to prove that the injury would not have happened if it weren’t for the accident, and that the injury did not exist before the accident.

Obvious examples of this include a broken foot if a pedestrian is run over by a car. But other times, the direct link between the crash and the injury is harder to prove, especially if the plaintiff had pre-existing health problems — like a back injury — that were exacerbated by the crash.

The last thing you have to prove is that your injuries are real. That’s not a difficult thing to do as long as you have documented medical records, photos and receipts.

No matter how minor or severe you think your injury is, if you or someone you love was injured in a car accident, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.


It’s fun to imagine a dramatic courtroom and a judge or jury handling your car accident claim, but the reality is that most car accident injury claims are settled without a lawsuit ever being filed — and the ones that are filed don’t usually make it all the way to trial.

Sometimes, it’s necessary and better for the injury victim to go to court and let a judge or jury hear your case. Other times, it’s more practical to pursue a settlement. Each case is different, and there are many factors at play.

What are the advantages to settling your car accident injury claim?

Here are a few pros of settling your claim before filing a lawsuit:

  • You get paid faster.
  • Your attorney costs could be lower — Litigating personal injury cases through the court system is a very costly undertaking. This could affect your settlement amount in the end.
  • You don’t take the chance of a jury or judge not ruling in your favor — i.e. you don’t end up with a settlement amount of 0 dollars.
  • You avoid the headaches of dealing with court hearings, depositions and other elements of a trial — Taking a case all the way to trial is a very long process. We’re talking months, if not years, in some cases. In the meantime, attorneys for the defense will likely do things that will try to “wear you down,” like looking into your personal life and threatening to disclose details in court that you don’t want shared into a public record.
  • You don’t have to deal with the appeals process post-trial — Even if a judge or jury rules in your favor and awards you the amount of money you deserve, the defense can — and often will — file appeals and post-trial motions that could seriously delay you getting your check.

What are the advantages to going to court?

Although most cases settle before court, there are a few advantages to taking your case all the way. These include:

  • You might get more money — If you take your case to a judge or jury and prevail, you might be rewarded with a much higher amount of money than the insurance company would have settled for.
  • You have a better chance of recouping all of your out-of-pocket costs – If a judge or jury rules in your favor, all those little expenses that you did not foresee coming after your accident could be repaid to you.

Ultimately, you should always consult with your attorney before deciding whether to settle or file a lawsuit. He or she is the best person to help you make that decision.

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


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.



When you’re in an automobile accident, whether it’s a fender-bender or a serious crash with injuries, determining who caused the accident (fault) and how much compensation you deserve (damages) is no small feat.

In North Carolina, the laws can be tricky to navigate. It’s important that you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.

What are the laws regarding damages in North Carolina?

There are basically two types of compensation when it comes to automobile accidents

  • Economic – the actual costs you incurred because of the accident, such as medical bills or lost wages
  • Non-economic – emotional pain, distress, suffering, etc.

In many states, there are limits to the amount of non-economic damages  you can receive from an automobile accident. In North Carolina, however, there are only caps in place for medical malpractice suits and punitive damages. For medical malpractice suits, damages are capped at $500,000. For punitive damages, the maximum award is $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages. However, if the wreck was caused by someone driving while impaired, then there is NO cap.

It’s important to note that state laws can change at any time. That’s why you need to consult with an attorney before you proceed.

What is contributory negligence in North Carolina?

If you are indeed receiving monetary damages from an automobile accident, there are three standards used in the judicial world to judge your conduct and calculate how much money you will receive:

  • Contributory negligence (Strictly followed in North Carolina with significant exceptions that still allow for recovery)
  • Pure comparative negligence (followed in States like New York)
  • Modified comparative negligence (followed in States like New Jersey)

In North Carolina, contributory negligence rule is used in civil cases. What does that mean? It means that if you were partially at fault in the automobile accident – no matter how little at fault you were – you cannot legally receive any damages. There are exceptions to this rule. If the defendant had the “Last Clear Chance” to avoid causing the wreck then you can recover. You may also recover where the defendant’s conduct was intentional or wanton and willful or where you were faced with a “Sudden Emergency”.

Even if a jury or judge decides that you were only 3 percent at fault and the other driver was 97 percent at fault, you will not be eligible for damages, even if you suffer serious injuries or experience other negative fallout from the crash.

North Carolina is one of only four states left in the United States – along with the District of Columbia – that follow the contributory negligence standard.

How long do you have to file a personal injury claim in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, there is a three-year time limit to file a claim after an automobile accident. If you file a claim after that window, your case will likely be dismissed. However, if a death were involved then your time limit may be shortened to a two year limit from the time of death (not to go beyond 3 years from the date of the wreck). Similarly there are exceptions for infants (anyone below the age of majority in NC, which is 18 Yrs old) and incompetents.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, contact the offices of Robert Armstrong today.